Cuban americans

by Sean Buffington


Cuba is an island nation located on the northern rim of the Caribbean Sea. It is the largest of the Greater Antilles islands. To Cuba's east is the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Off the southeastern coast of Cuba lies Jamaica, and to the north is the state of Florida. In 1992 Cuba had an estimated population of nearly 11 million. Since 1959, Cuba has been led by President Fidel Castro, whose socialist revolution overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista. In the years before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Cuba maintained a close political and economic relationship with that nation. Cuba has had a distant and antagonistic relationship with the United States. Sugar is the principal export of Cuba, but the Cuban economy, by most accounts, is weak.

The Cuban people are descendants of Spanish colonizers and of African slaves once employed in the sugar industry. Two-fifths of the Cuban population is Roman Catholic. Nearly half report no religious affiliation. Many of those who call themselves Catholics are also adherents of an Afro-Cuban religious tradition known as santeria. The official language of Cuba and the language spoken by nearly all Cubans is Spanish.

The capital of Cuba is Havana, located on the northwestern coast of the island. Nearly 20 percent of Cubans are city dwellers; most live in the capital city. The United States, which has limited diplomatic relations with Cuba, nonetheless maintains, against the Cuban government's wishes, a significant military presence in Cuba at the Guantanamo Bay base on the southeastern coast of the island.


Cuba was colonized by the Spanish in 1511. Before colonization, the island was inhabited by Ciboney and Arawak Indians. Shortly after colonization, the native population was ravaged by disease, warfare, and enslavement, causing their eventual extinction. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cuba, like most of Spain's Caribbean possessions, received little attention from the imperial government. Especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spain lavished attention on its mainland colonies in Central and South America and ignored its island colonies. By the end of the seventeenth century, Spain itself had begun to decline as a world power through financial mismanagement, outmoded trade policies, and continued reliance on exhausted extractive industries. Spain's colonies suffered during this period. Then the British captured Havana in 1762 and encouraged the cultivation of sugar cane, an activity that would dominate the economy of the area for centuries to come.


The need for labor on the sugar and tobacco plantations and in raising livestock, which had been the area's first major industry, resulted in the growth of African slavery. Lasting only ten months before Spain resumed control, Britain's rule was of short duration. However, in this brief period North Americans had become buyers of Cuban goods, a factor that would contribute greatly to the wellbeing of the island population.

In the next 60 years, trade increased, as did immigration from Europe and other areas of Latin America. The introduction of the steam-powered sugar mill in 1819 hastened the expansion of the sugar industry. While the demand for African slaves grew, Spain signed a treaty with Britain agreeing to prohibit the slave trade after 1820. The number entering the area did decrease, but the treaty was largely ignored. Over the next three decades, there were several slave revolts, but all proved unsuccessful.


Cuba's political relationship with Spain during this period became increasingly antagonistic. Creoles on the island—those of Spanish descent who had been born in Cuba and were chiefly wealthy landowners and powerful sugar planters—bridled at the control exercised over them in matters political and economic by colonial administrators from Europe. These planters were also concerned about the future of slavery on the island. They wanted to protect their investment in slaves and their access to the cheap labor of Africa from zealous imperial reformers. At the same time, black slaves in Cuba and their liberal white allies were interested both in national independence and in freedom for the slaves. In 1895, independence-minded black and white Cubans joined in a struggle against Spanish imperial forces. Their rebellion was cut short by the intervention of U.S. troops who defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War (1898) and ruled Cuba for four years. Even after the end of direct U.S. rule, however, the United States continued to exercise an extraordinary degree of influence over Cuban politics and the Cuban economy. U.S. interventionist policy toward Cuba aroused the resentment of many Cubans as did the irresponsible and tyrannical governance of the island by a succession of Cuban presidents.


That anger finally exploded in the late 1950s when a socialist guerrilla army led by Fidel Castro launched an uprising against the brutal, U.S.-supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Castro formed a socialist government after taking control of the island, and, in the polarized world of geopolitics during the Cold War, turned to the Soviet Union for support. Cuba's relationship with the United States has been cool at best since Castro's victory. The 1961 U.S.-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by the U.S. government and Cuban exiles in the United States to overthrow Castro, was the first of many clashes. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962, in which the United States successfully resisted an attempt by the Soviet Union to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, is also noteworthy.

Castro's Cuba has over the years supported socialist revolutions throughout the world. At home, Castro has used a heavy hand against dissidents, imprisoning, executing, and exiling many who have opposed him. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba has lost its most important trading partner and supporter. Castro's Cuba is in dire economic straits, and many wonder about the future of Castro's regime.


The famous Cuban poet and dissident Jose Marti lived in exile in the United States before returning to Cuba to lead the 1895 rebellion against Spanish forces. In New York City, he strategized with other Cuban opposition leaders and planned their return to Cuba as liberators. Not more than 60 years later, Fidel Castro himself was an exile in the United States. He too plotted a revolution in the country that would soon become his enemy.

Cubans have had a long history of migrating to the United States, often for political reasons. Many Cubans, particularly cigar manufacturers, came during the Ten Years' War (1868-1878) between Cuban nationals and the Spanish military. Yet the most significant Cuban migrations have occurred in the last 35 years. There have been at least four distinct waves of Cuban immigration to the United States since 1959. While many, perhaps most, of the earlier migrants were fleeing Cuba for political reasons, more recent migrants are more likely to have fled because of declining economic conditions at home.

The first of these recent migrations began immediately after Castro's victory and continued until the U.S. government imposed a blockade of Cuba at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. The first to leave were supporters of Batista. They were later joined by others who had not been prominent Batista allies but who nonetheless opposed Castro's socialist government. Before the U.S government imposed its blockade, almost 250,000 Cubans had left Cuba for the United States.

The second major migration started in 1965 and continued through 1973. Cuba and the United States agreed that Cubans with relatives residing in the United States would be transported from Cuba. The transportation of migrants began by boat from the northern port of Camarioca and, when many died in boat accidents, was later continued by plane from the airstrip at Varadero. Almost 300,000 Cubans arrived in the United States during this period. The third migration, known as the Mariel Boat Lift, occurred in 1980 after Castro permitted Cubans residing in the United States to visit relatives in Cuba. The sight of well-to-do Cuban Americans coupled with an economic downturn on the island prompted many to line up at the Peruvian Embassy, which Castro had opened for emigration. The sheer numbers of Cubans clamoring to leave led Castro to permit any Cubans wishing to emigrate to leave by boat from the port of Mariel. Some 125,000 Cubans took advantage of this opportunity.

As economic conditions have worsened since the fall of Cuba's principal economic supporter, the Soviet Union, more Cubans have left Cuba in

Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boat Lift apply for permanent residency in the United States.
Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boat Lift apply for permanent residency in the United States.
makeshift boats for Florida. Since Castro decided not to impede the departure of aspiring migrants, thousands of Cubans have left, many perishing on the boat journey. U.S. President Bill Clinton has initiated a policy of intercepting these migrants at sea and detaining them in centers at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere in Latin America, a policy that has outraged many in the Cuban American community.

These four migrations have brought substantial numbers of Cubans to the United States. Over the years, just as the migration "push factors" have changed, so has the composition of the migrant population. While the earliest migrants were drawn from the highly educated and conservative middle and upper classes—those who had the most to lose from a socialist revolution—more recent migrants have been poorer and less educated. In the past several decades, the migrant population has come to look more like the Cuban population as a whole and less like the highest socioeconomic stratum of that population.


According to the 1990 U.S. Census, there are nearly 860,000 persons of Cuban descent in the United States. Of these, 541,000, or almost 63 percent of the total, live in Florida. Most of these live in Dade County, where Miami is located. There are also sizable communities in New York, New Jersey, and California. Together, these three states account for 23 percent of the Cuban American population. Florida, and Miami specifically, is the center of the Cuban American community. It is in Florida that the most significant Cuban American political organizations, research centers, and cultural institutions make their homes. The first Cubans to arrive in Florida settled in a section of Miami known among non-Cubans as "Little Havana." Little Havana was originally that area to the west of downtown Miami, bounded by Seventh Street, Eighth Street, and Twelfth Avenue. But the Cuban American population eventually spread beyond those initial boundaries, moving west, south, and north to West Miami, South Miami, Westchester, Sweetwater, and Hialeah.

Many Cuban migrants moved even farther afield with the encouragement and assistance of the federal government. The Cuban Refugee Program, established by the Kennedy administration in 1961, provided assistance to Cuban migrants, enabling them to move out of southern Florida. Almost 302,000 Cubans were resettled though the Cuban Refugee Program; however, many have begun to return to the Miami area.

Return to Cuba has not been an option for Cuban Americans for political reasons. Many early migrants hoped to return quickly after Castro was ousted, but that ouster never happened. There are prominent and powerful political organizations dedicated to ridding Cuba of Castro and setting up a non-socialist government in Cuba. Recent surveys, however, have shown that most Cuban Americans do not wish to return to Cuba. Fully 70 percent said that they will not go back.

Acculturation and Assimilation

The Cuban American community is well assimilated in the United States. Moreover, because of its size, it has significant political influence. In 1993, the Cuban American National Foundation lobbied against and successfully prevented the Clinton administration from appointing an undersecretary of state for Latin American affairs whom it opposed. Fully 78 percent of Cuban Americans had registered to vote in 1989 and 1990, compared to 77.8 percent of non-Hispanic white Americans. Moreover, 67.2 percent of Cuban Americans reported that they voted in the 1988 presidential election, compared to 70.2 percent of Anglo-Americans, 49.3 percent of Mexican Americans, and 49.9 percent of Puerto Ricans.

Cuban Americans also enjoy greater economic security than other Hispanic groups. In 1986, the median family income of Cuban Americans was $26,770— $2,700 less than the median for all U.S. family incomes but $6,700 more than the median for all Hispanic American family incomes. Cuban Americans are also highly educated; fully 17 percent of the Cuban American population has completed college or college and some graduate schooling, compared with eight percent of Puerto Ricans, six percent of Mexican Americans, and 20 percent of the total U.S. population. In other significant ways too, Cuban Americans closely resemble the total U.S. population. Two-parent households account for 78 percent of all Cuban American households and 80 percent of all U.S. households. The average U.S. family has 3.19 members, while the average Cuban American family has 3.18 members.

Despite the overwhelming success of early Cuban immigrants, many of the more recent migrants to the United States have not enjoyed as warm a reception from their adopted country as their predecessors. This is partially due to the fact that, as a group, they have less business or professional experience and are less educated. While the vast majority of Cubans who migrated to the United States during this period were not social deviants, they were nonetheless labeled as such by the media. The challenges presented to these migrants serve to remind us that Cuban Americans are not a monolithic community. Rather, they are quite diverse; generalizations about Cuban American politics and conservatism or about Cuban American wealth and business success must therefore consider the full complexity of the Cuban American community.


In Cuba, a sixth-grade education is compulsory and the illiteracy rate, in 1981, was 1.9 percent. There is a strong emphasis on math and science, and Cuba has become a center for preparing medical personnel, generating scores of young doctors. In the United States, Cubans and Cuban Americans are equally concerned about education and their children are often well-educated. The overwhelming majority of U.S.-born Cuban Americans have completed high school and some form of further education (83 percent). More than 25 percent have gone to post-secondary schools, compared to less than 20 percent of Cuban Americans born abroad, less than 16 percent of native-born Puerto Ricans, and ten percent of native-born Mexican Americans. More than any other Hispanic migrant group, Cuban Americans have shown a willingness and the ability to pay for private education for their children. Of native-born Cuban Americans, almost 47 percent have attended private schools. These numbers indicate that education is extremely important to Cuban Americans and that they, more than any other Hispanic migrant group, have the resources to pay for additional schooling and private education.


Like many recent migrant groups, Cuban Americans enjoy both Cuban and U.S. cuisines. Traditional Cuban food is the product of the mingling of Spanish and West African cuisines in the climate of the Caribbean. Pork and beef are the most common meats in the traditional Cuban diet. Rice, beans, and root vegetables usually accompany such dishes. Necessary ingredients are available in most major cities where there are significant Hispanic populations. Many Cuban Americans, especially those who have been raised in the United States, have easy access to a variety of "American" foods and tend to reserve traditional cooking for special occasions.


Early Cuban immigrants entered the United States with the blessing of a president and a nation committed to combating communism. These Cubans therefore enjoyed a largely favorable relationship with their host communities. More recently, signs of conflict between Cuban Americans and other American communities have increased. The movement of Cuban Americans beyond the Little Havana enclave was accompanied by a movement of non-Hispanic whites out of the areas into which Cuban Americans were moving. There has also been a longstanding antagonism between Cuban Americans and African Americans in Florida, especially as Cuban Americans have asserted themselves politically and economically in the Miami area, becoming the dominant ethnic community there. African American community leaders often accuse Cuban Americans of shutting them out of the political process and keeping them out of the tourist industry. In 1991, according to an article by Nicole Lewis in Black Enterprise, black Dade County residents were outraged by five Cuban American mayors' failure to officially welcome South African freedom fighter and president Nelson Mandela; they retaliated by initiating a boycott of tourismrelated businesses in the Miami area.

Most Cuban Americans report and perceive a nondiscriminatory relationship with white Americans. A survey of Hispanic Americans conducted from 1989 to 1990 showed that 82.2 percent of Cubans who were U.S. citizens said they had not personally experienced discrimination because of their national origin. Nonetheless, 47 percent of Cuban Americans surveyed said that they thought there was discrimination against Cuban Americans in general.


According to Fernando S. Mendoza's January 9, 1991 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Cuban Americans are generally healthier than other Hispanic Americans but often less healthy than non-Hispanic white Americans. Several indicators demonstrate the health status of Cuban Americans. The proportion of Cuban American babies with low birth weight is lower than the percentage of all infants in the United States with low birth weight and slightly higher than that of non-Hispanic white Americans. Similarly, the proportion of Cuban American infants born early, while lower than that of Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans, is nonetheless higher than that of non-Hispanic whites.

In the same issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Council on Scientific Affairs published an article stating that in other areas the comparative position of Cuban Americans is similar. Cuban Americans are far more likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to be murdered or to commit suicide. Still, they are less likely to be murdered than black or Puerto Rican Americans and less likely to die in accidents than black, Puerto Rican, or Mexican Americans. Trevino et al.'s piece showed that when Cuban Americans do seek treatment for injury or disease, they frequently must pay the entire cost of emergency care, since a higher proportion of Cuban Americans than U.S. residents is uninsured. Many Cuban Americans turn to the santeria tradition for health care, participating in santeria healing services and seeking the advice of santeria healers.


The national language of Cuba is Spanish and many Cuban Americans have some facility with Spanish. In 1989 and 1990, among Cuban Americans born in the United States, 96 percent said that they could speak either Spanish and English equally well or English better than Spanish. Cuban Americans born in the United States tend to be English speakers and have less facility with Spanish. Among those individuals born abroad, 74.3 percent said that they could speak either Spanish or Spanish better than English; however, while those born abroad have greater facility with Spanish, more

These Cuban American children are enjoying representing their families in the Hispanic Day Parade.
These Cuban American children are enjoying representing their families in the Hispanic Day Parade.
than half have some English ability as well.

These numbers do not capture the phenomenon of "Spanglish." Among many Cuban Americans born in the United States who speak English at school and in other public domains but speak some Spanish at home with relatives and neighbors, "Spanglish," or a linguistic mixture of Spanish and English, is a common alternative. Many Cuban Americans—especially younger Cuban Americans—use Spanglish to talk with friends and acquaintances, incorporating English words, phrases, and syntactic units into Spanish grammatical structures. Facility with Spanglish, however, does not necessarily imply lack of facility with either English or Spanish, though such a lack of facility may characterize the Spanglish speaker.

Family and Community Dynamics

The Cuban American family is different in significant ways from the Cuban family. The Cuban family is characterized by patriarchy, strong parental control over children's lives, and the importance of non-nuclear relationships for the nuclear family. In the United States, these elements have become less characteristic among families of Cuban descent. For example, the Cuban tradition of selecting godparents for a child who will maintain a close and quasi-parental relationship with the child has begun to decline in the United States. Compadres, or godparents, are less likely to play a significant role in the lives of Cuban American children.

Similarly, Cuban American women are more likely to have greater authority in the family than in Cuba. This is in part attributable to the greater workforce participation of Cuban American women. These women, because they contribute to the household income and to the overall security and independence of the family, claim a greater share of authority and power within the household. Authority in Cuban American families has changed in other ways too. Children have greater freedom in the United States than in Cuba. For example, in Cuba young people are traditionally accompanied by an adult chaperon when dating. This is less true in the United States where young people go out unaccompanied or accompanied by an older sibling.


There are significant changes in patterns of marriage and childbearing within the U.S. Cuban community as Americans of Cuban descent raised in the United States have begun to depart from traditional Cuban familial patterns. Although 63 percent of foreign-born Cuban Americans over the age of 18 are married, only 38 percent of similarly aged U.S.-born Cubans are married. Also, almost 50 percent of U.S.-born Cuban Americans are single, compared with 10.7 percent of Cuban Americans born in Cuba. Cuban Americans born in the United States are also less likely to become parents than Cuban Americans born abroad. Finally, nearly 30 percent of native-born Cuban Americans who are married are married to Anglo-Americans, compared to 3.6 percent of Cuban-born Americans.


Most Cubans living in Cuba identify themselves either as Roman Catholics or as nonreligious. The large number of nonreligious people is a consequence of the antireligious bias of the socialist government in Cuba. The most recent statistics reflecting the religious affiliations of Cubans come from before the Castro Revolution. In 1954 more than 70 percent called themselves Roman Catholic, and six percent called themselves Protestant. There were also small numbers of santeria adherents and Jews at that time.

Recent figures demonstrate that Americans of Cuban descent overwhelmingly identify themselves as Roman Catholics. Almost 80 percent of those born in Cuba and 64 percent of those born in the United States are Catholic. Fourteen percent of Cuban migrants and ten percent of U.S.-born Cubans follow some form of Protestantism. Fully one-quarter of native-born Cuban Americans say they either have no preference or have another religious affiliation.

Among Protestant Cubans in Florida, most belong to mainline Protestant denominations, the most common being Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Lutheran. However, there are increasing numbers of independent church members, including Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists. This growth parallels the growth of charismatic, fundamentalist, and independent churches throughout Latin America and in the United States. Jewish Cuban Americans, while few, are also notable. The Miami Jewish Federation reported in 1984 that there were 5,000 Jewish Cubans in the Miami area. The Miami Cuban Hebrew Congregation and Temple Moses are two of the largest Miami area Cuban synagogues.

The Cuban religious tradition that has received the greatest publicity in recent years, including Russell Miller's article "A Leap of Faith in the January 30, 1994, issue of the New York Times, is santeria. Santeria has been portrayed in movies and television since the mid-1980s as a form of Afro-Caribbean "black magic" similar to Haitian vodun, popularly known as "voodoo." These media portrayals, which have been largely negative and frequently inaccurate, have led to a public misunderstanding of the nature of santeria. The tradition is, like vodun, a synthesis of West African and Roman Catholic religious vocabularies, beliefs and practices. Santeros, or adherents of santeria, seek the guidance, protection, and intervention in their lives of orishas —divine personages who trace their lineage both to Yoruba West African gods and Roman Catholic saints. The practice of santeria involves healing rituals, spirit possession, and animal sacrifice. This last aspect of santeria practice caused controversy when leaders of a santeria church recently challenged a local Miami area law prohibiting animal sacrifice. The U.S. Supreme Court later struck down that law as unconstitutional. The same santeria church that challenged that law has incorporated itself and plans to establish a national church similar to other national religious organizations.

"S ometimes I have dreams, and I see myself walking to my grant-parents' house in Cuba ... It brings back a lot of memories. The States is home. I have no qualms about it, but I'm still attracted to that little island, no matter how small it is. It's home. It's your people. You feel, if it's ever possible again, you'd like to reconstruct what was there. You want to be a part of it."

Ramon Fernández in 1961, cited in American Mosaic: The Immigrant Experience in the Words of Those Who Lived It, edited by Joan Morrison and Charlotte Fox Zabusky (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1980).

Employment and Economic Traditions

Most Cuban Americans, both foreign-born and U.S.-born, were employed in 1989 and 1990. Their rates of unemployment were lower than those of Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans though somewhat higher than those of non-Hispanic white Americans. Almost 18 percent of Cuban Americans were professionals or managers. Although only 15 percent of Anglo-Americans were so employed, more than one-third of Cubans who were U.S. citizens were employed in technical, sales, or administrative support positions.

Cuban Americans are better off financially than other Hispanic Americans and nearly as well off as the average American. Their economic and employment profiles look very little like those of other recent Hispanic Caribbean immigrant groups (e.g., Puerto Ricans and Dominicans). In the Miami area, the center of the Cuban American community, Cuban Americans are prominent in virtually every profession. In 1984 Cuban Americans headed a third of the Miami area private companies that returned sales of at least 12.5 million. Manuel Viamonte's book, Cuban Exiles in Florida: Their Presence and Contribution, states that there are approximately 2,000 Cuban American medical doctors in the Miami area, and the Cuban Medical Association in Exile claims more than 3,000 members nationwide.

Cubans are regarded as a successful migrant group. They are reputed to be excellent and dedicated entrepreneurs who came to the United States with nothing and built profitable industries. Scholars report that later immigrants have built upon the connections and resources of the Cuban community already here. And many of the wealthiest Cuban American business people built their businesses by catering to the Cuban community or by using their connections to or knowledge of it. Nonetheless, there are many exceptions to this portrait of Cuban Americans. More than 33 percent of Cuban American households earn less than $20,000 per year, and while this proportion is close to the proportion of Anglo-Americans in the same income category, it still represents an extraordinary number of Cuban Americans who have not yet achieved the "American Dream" of security and prosperity.

Politics and Government

Cuban Americans are reputed to be conservative politically and to vote overwhelmingly for the Republican Party in elections. Dario Moreno and Christopher L. Warren's 1992 essay in Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, validates this reputation by examining the voting patterns of Cuban Americans in the 1992 election. Voting returns from Dade County, Florida, showed that 70 percent of Hispanic Americans there voted for then-President George Bush. Another survey indicated that, of Cuban Americans who voted in 1988, almost 78 percent voted for Republican candidates. That same survey showed that, in the 1988 elections, most Cuban Americans were registered to vote and voted. Thus, Cuban Americans seem to share many basic political values and a willingness to exercise their voting power to advance these values.

The driving ideological force behind most Cuban American political activity has been opposition to the Marxist regime in Cuba. Some of the most powerful Cuban American political organizations are dedicated to shaping U.S. policy toward Cuba and to ridding Cuba of Castro. Perhaps the most important of these organizations is the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). Headed until 1998 by Jorge Mas Canosa, a wealthy Miami businessman who participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion attempt, CANF squelched the Clinton administration's nomination of a Cuban American lawyer for Latin American undersecretary at the State Department because it judged him too sympathetic to the current Cuban regime. CANF also pushed for the passage of the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which imposed further restrictions on trade with Cuba, and for the passage of the controversial Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (the Helms-Burton Act). This law, which allows the United States to impose sanctions on foreign companies that trade with Cuba, provoked intense resentment throughout the world and has been challenged in the World Court. CANF has also supported U.S. anticommunist ventures elsewhere in the world. CANF is active in several areas: it sponsors research on Cuba and Cuban Americans; it raises money for political purposes; and it lobbies elected officials. Many regard the organization as representative of the Cuban American community. Some, however, have charged that the foundation tries to stifle dissent within the community.

Since Mas's death in 1998, however, the role of CANF has become less clear. Growing numbers of Cuban Americans resent what they consider the organization's excesses, and, in opposition to the CANF position, prefer an end to the U.S. trade embargo. Groups such as the Cuban Committee for Democracy and Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change) which advocate an end to the embargo, were given renewed support when Pope John Paul II denounced U.S. policy toward Cuba when he visited the island in January 1998. The fact that President Clinton softened restrictions on travel to Cuba as well as donations of food and medicines suggests to many that CANF's power to dictate U.S. policy toward Cuba has begun to wane.

The Cuban American community's political activities have been very successful in certain areas. It has elected Cuban Americans to Congress and has dominated the local political scene in the Miami area. Consequently, candidates have courted them as a group in the last two presidential elections. Change may lie in the community's political future, however. Mas Canosa, a staunch Republican, gave some support to Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign, and CANF donated $275,000 to the Democrat's coffers. Voices within the community have raised questions about the conservatism that has guided Cuban Americans since the 1960s. Indeed, Bill Clinton received more Hispanic support in the Miami area than any of his predecessors (Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and Jimmy Carter), suggesting that political preferences in the Cuban American community may be changing.

Cuban Americans display crosses representing loved ones who died in Cuba as they march in Miami. The protest rally contributed to the cancellation of a Catholic Church-sponsored cruise to Cuba for the Pope's visit in 1997.


Since the start of Cuban migration to the United States, Cuban Americans have been greatly concerned with the political status of Cuba and many are committed to Cuba's political transformation. In the United States, they have been staunchly conservative, supporting candidates who have taken a hard line against Cuba. However, Cuban Americans are becoming less committed to the struggle against Castro; or at least, the anti-Castro struggle is becoming less central to Cuban American identity. A principal challenge facing the Cuban American community in the years ahead is a reconsideration of what it means to be Cuban American. Perhaps that definition will become more elastic and accommodating, and the Cuban American community will embrace ever greater internal diversity. What had once seemed a politically united community is divided on issues like migration, Castro, and U.S. Republicanism. However, these internal divisions should not weaken the community, and may even strengthen the Cuban American community, making it more vital.

Individual and Group Contributions


Lydia Cabrera (1900-1991) was one of Cuba's most prominent scholars and writers. Born in Havana, she studied Afro-Cuban folklore and edited many collections of folk literature; she was also a prolific fiction writer. She lived in exile in Spain and Miami. Poet and art historian Ricardo Pau-Llosa, who was born in Havana, moved to the United States in 1960 and became a naturalized citizen. He is an authority on contemporary Latin American art, and has written texts for more than 30 exhibition catalogues. He has also published several collections of poetry. Havana-born Gustavo (Francisco) Perez-Firmat, who moved to the United States in 1960 and became a naturalized citizen, is a literary historian who specializes in the Hispanic vanguard novel. He has been awarded numerous fellowships and is a professor of romance languages at Duke University.


Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., the son of Cuban immigrants in Miami, has been nationally recognized for his contributions to medical care for the homeless. Dr. Greer founded the Camillus Health Concern in Miami, and developed a medical school course that focused on the specific medical needs of homeless persons. Dr. Greer has received numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1993, and has advised the federal government on health care reform. His book Waking Up in America, which details his work with the homeless, was published in 1999.


Born in Havana, Cuba, Roberto Goizueta (1931– ) is the chief-executive of Coca-Cola. Jorge Mas Canosa (1939-1998) was a Miami businessman and chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation. Born in Santiago, Cuba, he became president of his own company, the Mas Group, and chair of the advisory board of Radio Marti, the U.S. governmentsponsored radio station that broadcasts to Cuba.


Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) was an actor and musician who is perhaps best remembered for his role in the popular 1950s TV series "I Love Lucy," which he helped create with his wife Lucille Ball. Cuban American dancer Fernando Bujones (1955– ) danced with the American Ballet Theatre from 1974 to 1985. Maria Conchita Alonso (1957– ), a singer and film actress, was born in Cuba; she has appeared in films such as Moscow on the Hudson and House of the Spirits , and was nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo album. Andy Garcia (1956– ), a television and film actor, was born in Cuba; he has starred in such films as The Untouchables, Internal Affairs, Godfather III, and When a Man Loves a Woman, and was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in Godfather III. Elizabeth Pena (1959– ), a television and movie actress, was born in New Jersey; she has appeared on stage and in such films as Jacob's Ladder, Blue Steel, La Bamba, and The Waterdance, as well as in the television series "Hill Street Blues" and "L.A. Law."


Cristina Garcia (1958– ), a journalist and a fiction writer, was born in Havana; she earned a B.A. from Barnard College and a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University; she served as a bureau chief and correspondent for Time magazine, and was a National Book Award finalist for her Dreaming in Cuban. Oscar Hijuelos (1951– ), a Cuban American born in New York City, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1990 for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, a novel that was later made into a movie of the same name. One of the leading voices in contemporary American literature, he is the author of several novels and short stories that address his Cuban American heritage. Reinaldo Arenas, who came to the United States in the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980, was considered one of the leading experimental writers in Cuba. Imprisoned by Castro for homosexuality and political dissent, Arenas wrote frankly about his erotic life, most particularly in his posthumously published memoir, Before Night Falls. Arenas, in the last stages of AIDS, committed suicide in New York City in 1990.


The popular salsa musician Celia Cruz had a cameo role in the film The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Gloria Estefan (1958– ), a Cuban-born singer/songwriter, enjoyed top-ten popularity during her stint with the Miami pop band Miami Sound Machine and during her solo career; she fronted Miami Sound Machine from 1975 to 1987; the song "Conga" propelled her and the band to national prominence.


Baseball outfielder Tony Oliva (1940– ) played for Minnesota from 1962 to 1976. During that period, he won the American League batting tittle three times. Tony Perez (1942– ) was an infielder, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds, from 1964 to 1986. He was a seven-time National League All-Star. Cuban-born José Canseco (1964– ) began playing for Oakland as an outfielder in 1985. In 1986 he was proclaimed rookie of the year and in 1988 he became the first player to have 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in one year.


Lincoln Diaz-Balart (1954– ), a Florida Republican member of Congress since 1993, was born in Havana; he earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University and served in the Florida State Senate. Robert Menendez (1954– ), the first Cuban American Democratic representative to the national legislature, was born in New York City and represents New Jersey in Congress; he was also a member of the New Jersey State Assembly and was mayor of Union City, New Jersey, from 1986 to 1993. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (1952– ), a Republican member of Congress from Florida, was born in Havana; first elected in 1989, she was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She has also been a school principal and a Florida State Senator. Xavier Suarez (1949– ) was born in Las Villas, Cuba; he earned a law degree from Harvard before chairing Miami's Affirmative Action Commission; he serves as mayor of the City of Miami. Bob Martinez (1934– ) served as the first Hispanic governor of Florida from 1987 to 1991. In 1991 he was appointed director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by President George Bush.



Cuba Update.

Reflects the aim of the Center for Cuban Studies, which is to disseminate accurate and up-to-date information on Cuba. Recurring features include editorials; news of research; book reviews; a calendar of events; news of conferences, forums, film showings, and exhibitions; and notices of publications issued by the Center.

Contact: Sandra Levinson, Editor.

Address: Center for Cuban Studies, 124 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011.

Telephone: (212) 242-0559.

Fax: (212) 242-1937.


Diario Las Americas.

Though not precisely a Cuban American paper, it has been one of the principal forums for Cuban American expression since 1953, and has a readership of 70,000.

Contact: Horacio Aguirre, Editor and Publisher.

Address: 2900 Northwest 39th Street, Miami, Florida 33142-5149.

Telephone: (305) 633-3341.

Fax: (305) 635-7668.

Hispanic Newsletter.

Monthly newsletter covering the League's activities on behalf of Cuban Americans. Assesses needs of minority communities in relation to education, training, manpower development, and health care. Recurring features include reports of Cuban American community-based centers opened by the League.

Address: National League of Cuban American Community-Based Centers, 2119 Websters, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802.

Telephone: (219) 745-5421.

Fax: (219) 744-1363.

El Nuevo Herald.

The Spanish-language subsidiary of The Miami Herald, it was founded in 1976 and has a circulation of 120,000.

Contact: Barbara Gutierrez, Editor.

Address: Hometown Herald, 1520 East Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33304.

Telephone: (954) 527-8940.

Fax: (954) 527-8955.

El Nuevo Patria.

Originated in 1959, it has a circulation of 28,000.

Contact: Carlos Diaz-Lujan, Editor.

Address: 850 North Miami Avenue, #102, P.O. Box 2, José Martí Station, Miami, Florida 33135-0002.

Telephone: (305) 530-8787.

Fax: (305)577-8989.


WAMR-FM (107.5), WQBA-AM (1140).

Programs news and talk on its AM station and contemporary music on its FM station.

Contact: Claudia Puig, AM General Manager; or Luis Diaz-Albertiny, FM General Manager.

Address: 2828 Coral Way, Miami, Florida 33145-3204.

Telephone: (305) 441-2073.

Fax: (305) 445-8908.

WAQI-AM (710).

A Spanish-language news and talk station.

Contact: Tomas Regalado, News Director.

Address: 2690 Coral Way, Miami, Florida 33145.

Telephone: (305) 445-4040.

WRHC-AM (1550).

Programs Spanish talk and news shows.

Contact: Lazaro Asencio, News Director.

Address: 330 Southwest 27th Avenue, Suite 207, Miami, Florida 33135-2957.

Telephone: (305) 541-3300.

Fax: (305) 643-6224.


Two of the most prominent Spanish-language television stations serving the Cuban American population in the Miami area provide diverse programming created by Cuban American journalists and administrators.

WLTV-Channel 23 (Univision).

Contact: Alina Falcon, News Director.

Address: 9405 Northwest 41st Street, Miami, Florida 33178.

Telephone: (305) 471-3900.

Fax: (305) 471-4160.

WSCV-Channel 51 (Telemundo).

Contact: J. Manuel Calvo.

Address: 2340 West Eighth Avenue, Hialeah, Florida 33010-2019.

Telephone: (305) 888-5151.

Fax: (305) 888-9270.

Organizations and Associations

Cuban-American Committee.

Works to improve interaction between the United States and Cuba.

Contact: Alicia Torrez, Executive Director.

Address: 733 Fifteenth Street NW, Suite 1020, Washington, D.C. 20005-2112.

Telephone: (202) 667-6367.

Cuban American National Council (CNC).

Aims to identify the socioeconomic needs of the Cuban population in the United States and to promote needed human services.

Contact: Guarione M. Diaz, President and Executive Director.

Address: 300 Southwest 12th Avenue, Third Floor, Miami, Florida 33130.

Telephone: (305) 642-3484.

Fax: (305) 642-7463.


Online: .

Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).

Americans of Cuban descent and others with an interest in Cuban affairs. Serves as a grass roots lobbying organization promoting freedom and democracy in Cuba and worldwide.

Contact: Francisco Hernandez, President.

Address: 7300 Northwest 35th Terrace, Suite 105, Miami, Florida 33122.

Telephone: (305) 592-7768.

Fax: (305) 592-7889.


Online: .

National Association of Cuban American Women of the U.S.A.

Addresses current issues, concerns, and problems affecting Hispanic and minority women.

Contact: Ziomara Sanchez, President.

Address: P.O. Box 614, Union City, New Jersey 07087.

Telephone: (201) 864-4879.

Fax: (201) 223-0036.

Museums and Research Centers

Center for Cuban Studies (CCS).

Individuals and institutions organized to provide resource materials on Cuba to educational and cultural institutions. Sponsors film showings, lectures, and seminars; organizes tours of Cuba. Maintains Cuban art collection with photographic archives, paintings, drawings, ceramics, and posters; sponsors art exhibits.

Contact: Sandra Levinson, Executive Director.

Address: 124 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011.

Telephone: (212) 242-0559.

Fax: (212) 242-1937.


Cuban Research Institute.

Integral unit of Florida International University, under the direction of the Latin American and Caribbean Center. Besides supporting and encouraging research on Cuba, it also sponsors an annual teacher training workshop and a journalist workshop.

Contact: Lisandro Perez, Director.

Address: University Park, DM 363, Miami, Florida 33199.

Telephone: (305) 348-1991.

Fax: (305) 348-3593.


Sources for Additional Study

Boswell, Thomas D., and James R. Curtis. The Cuban American Experience: Culture, Images, and Perspectives. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983.

Cuban Exiles in Florida: Their Presence and Contribution, edited by Antonio Jorge, Jaime Suchlicki, and Adolfo Leyva de Varona. Miami: Research Institute for Cuban Studies, University of Miami, 1991.

de la Garza, Rodolfo O., et al. Latino Voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban Perspectives on American Politics. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992.

Morganthau, Tom. "How Can We Say No?" Newsweek, 5 September 1994, p. 29.

Olson, James S. and Judith E. Cuban Americans: From Trauma to Triumph. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.

Pérez Firmat, Gustavo. Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Peterson, Mark F., and Jaime Roquebert. "Success Patterns of Cuban American Enterprises: Implications for Entrepreneurial Communities," in Human Relations 46, 1993, p. 923.

Stone, Peter H. "Cuban Clout," National Journal, February 20, 1993, p. 449.

User Contributions:

eva banman
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May 24, 2006 @ 5:17 pm
this is a great awesome source for information. i had a project on cuba so this helped a lot... thanks
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Nov 24, 2006 @ 2:14 pm
same as the other person said. thx my teacher asked where i got the info and i told her this site and she loved it.
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Jan 14, 2007 @ 4:16 pm
This is an awsome source of information for anyone who is looking for info on Cuban Americans. I had to find information on the linguistic, political, social, economic, religious and familial statuses of Cuban Americans and others and this filled all the gaps. I will be using this site for other information needed for my project. Thanks!
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Jan 21, 2007 @ 3:15 pm
Looks to me like a lot of people go to the University of Phoenix Online. Anyway, It did help. Thanks.
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Oct 14, 2007 @ 8:20 pm
I am one of the University of Phoenix Online students also. As said before, this is a great source for anyone that is looking for info. on Cuban Americans, not just students.
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Oct 16, 2007 @ 11:23 pm
i had an oral presentation on Cuban Americans, and this page was a really good source for me. A lot of sites iv'e looked didnt have any of the information i was really looking for- but this one definatly did. Thanks a lot!
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Oct 19, 2007 @ 5:17 pm
need information on how to site this for a research paper help please
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Nov 18, 2007 @ 10:22 pm
I really thought this was informative, I am doing a paper on hispanic communities and this is a Huge help. If you could send some citation information so I can give the proper respects to the authors of this site.
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Feb 28, 2008 @ 8:20 pm
I go to the UOP Axia and this is SUPER information for my assignment!! And I learned so much about Cuban American's that I didn't know. Great information!!
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Mar 24, 2008 @ 6:18 pm
Wow, it is amazing how many student from UOP have found this site useful! This site has really helped me with my assignment!
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Apr 21, 2008 @ 4:04 am
I am an online student. I find this site to be very helpful. It's got plentiful information, more than what I have seen on other sites. Thanks so much for the help!
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Apr 27, 2008 @ 12:00 am
I too am a UOP student. This sight is a big help in writing my paper.
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May 4, 2008 @ 11:23 pm
I also attentd the Univeristy of Phoenix and this site was a big help for my assignment thanks.
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Jun 22, 2008 @ 7:19 pm
Yet another UOP student satisfied with his findings--very appreciative.
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Jul 28, 2008 @ 9:21 pm
Wow, I didn't realize there were so many of us UOP students all looking for the same thing. I agree that this is informative but I'm not sure that this should be considered a reliable source, there are no citations within the article and I doubt it has been reviewed for accuracy. It is a good start though!
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Oct 17, 2008 @ 12:00 am
For future Axia students requesting citation searching the author's name of this article and others on this site in Gale Virtual Reference in the school library you can recieve the entire article along with all the citation information you will need. Good luck.
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Oct 20, 2008 @ 1:13 pm
Another UOP student that got great information from this site. Thanks!
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Feb 1, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
I am a Axia online student. And just to know that there is different types of information out here to use is amazing. Thanks for being a good sight to get information from.
Brian Keegan
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Feb 9, 2009 @ 3:03 am
Also from the University of Phoenix online. I really like this site, great information. S many thank you to Sean Buffington
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Feb 19, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
I am ALSO a UOP student! :) LOL I loved this site! It was very well informed and filled with so many interesting facts :)
Evelyn Sheppard
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Mar 15, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
Hey fellow students of UoP! This was my assignment as well. This site was very informative for my Cultural Diversity paper. Thank You, Sean Buffington for writing this journal. Have great day all! ; )
rachel g
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Mar 30, 2009 @ 11:23 pm
Wow I am also an Axia College student. This article helped me on my assignment also.
Aimee S.
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Jul 1, 2009 @ 1:01 am
Thanks for the information! I am also a University of Phoenix student. I found an article like for Mexican Americans on the everyculture website. Loved the information! Thanks again!!
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Jul 2, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
This web-site helped soo much on our project on cuban americans.
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Jul 13, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
Another UOP online student! The info provided on this site was perfect for my assignment, thank you!
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Jul 26, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
Great site I'm another UOP student and this site provided the best information for my assignment thank YOU!
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Sep 13, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
Thanks for the helpful information. It was everything I needed to complete a research paper for school. Keep up the excellent work!
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Oct 11, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
UOP here too! Everything I needed for my assignment was found here. Thank you for such an informative site!
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Oct 17, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
I am also a University of Phoenix student and found this site to be the best for information on the Cuban American history.
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Oct 18, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
This site really helped me with my Ethics class homework. I also go to the University of Phoenix, Axia.
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Oct 19, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
Another University of Phoenix - Axia College Online student here! I had the same paper as Courtney to write and I was stuck until I came across this site and found everything I needed. Amazing!
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Oct 24, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
Another UoP student here!! The information on this site is indeed wonderful. But, as #15 said, we need to be careful of reliability issues, but also as #16 said, if this article comes up in the school database, then at least you know it is relevant somehow!
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Nov 8, 2009 @ 5:17 pm
This must be the site for UOP students! I bet it's for the same assignment in Week 7.
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Nov 10, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
I just had to write to say that I, too, am a student of UOP Axia. My progress for my assignment was almost at a standstill until I found this site!
kristy rail
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Nov 15, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
I am also a online student and would recommend this site to any one of my classmate
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Jan 24, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
This is an awesome source for students attending school or for anyone who needs information on their heritage. Thanks!
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Mar 15, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
I too am a UoP student, this site is amazing for reference to the assignment in ETH/125. I will take the advice on how to reference the material correctly, GO PHOENIX!!!
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Apr 5, 2010 @ 11:11 am
I found some very good information here. It really helped me a lot with my assignment.
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Apr 25, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
I am also a student at the University of Phoenix, and this site helped me to write my entire paper. I also told other students in my class about it because this site is so helpful. Thank you for all your hard work.
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Apr 26, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
i found alot of information for this writing and me alot. thanks.
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Jul 10, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
IIm looking for information regarding the present status of the Cuban Americans that arrived from Mariel on 1980, What have they accomplished
and if anyone compiling that information now?
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Jul 25, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
I am also a UOP student and this will be very useful for my assignment. Thank you!
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Sep 22, 2010 @ 6:18 pm
I would like to know who I can reference for this cite, we need to include such information if we refer to this infomration in our research paper. I do not see a specific persons, article, publication, or year. If anyone sees that I am missing this, please feel free to email me with the correct information.
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Oct 3, 2010 @ 6:18 pm
I as well am a UOP Axia Student. I found this information very helpful when doing my assignment for the class. :)
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Oct 4, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
wow, i do not go to college or highschool but this project helped with my assign. for mrs marsh, my spanish teacher. it was a cuban culture assignment
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Feb 26, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
It is absolutely amazing how through the years this site helped so many UOP Axia College students with their assignments. This credible site has an enormous amount of factual material that gave me not only a closer look at Cuban Americans, but a lot of information that I could use for my research. Thanks!
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Apr 15, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
Iam a UOP student and plan to use some of this information in my ppt. regarding the Cuban culture. I need to cite and reference this literature
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Sep 15, 2011 @ 11:23 pm
yet another UoP student here! wow I needed this info for my Cultural Diversity class and you have everything! I was able to write my paper within an hour just off of your work! Thank you so much! This was a HUGE heko!
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Sep 28, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
wow in needed this info for my poster i was doing social studies
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Oct 15, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
UOP here. Very informational site. It seems hard to reference though. I found this name at the top of the page: Sean Buffington and at the bottom the copyright is current 2011 Advameg. It is aparant though that this info dates back at least to 06 because that is when the first comments appeared. I will do what I can with this info. Seems a lot of ppl are having trouble citing this info so if anyone figures it out please post for the next users. Thanks ;)
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Mar 7, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
ahh:) This site helped me from pulling my hair out, thank you so much for having such a great informative site!
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Oct 16, 2012 @ 8:08 am
Very informational...but was hard for me to read, it was hard to find what i was looking for...
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Jul 11, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
thank you so much this site is very helpful and i hope to pass my test thank you
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Sep 12, 2013 @ 6:18 pm
so i really liked this source and it helped me through my project on my parents country of origin
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Oct 13, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
this really helped me with my assignment for class thank you!
Aiden Aldrich
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Jan 14, 2015 @ 8:20 pm
Awesome information really helped. I like the information because it gave tons of facts...thanks.
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Sep 12, 2016 @ 12:00 am
Thought-provoking writing . BTW , others are requiring a AF IMT 131 , my wife came across a fillable form here

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